Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been urging President Donald Trump and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take quick action on a new coronavirus relief bill that would provide funding for states struggling in the race of the pandemic response.
There appears to be no help coming from Washington any time soon – although Congressional leaders introduced a $908 billion plan on Tuesday – so Whitmer is trying to get the money closer to home.
At her coronavirus briefing Tuesday, she renewed a call she made in a letter last week addressed to leadership in the state Senate and state House, asking for several things, including a $100 million COVID-19 relief package.
“Leaders at the federal level still have not been able to agree on a plan. That’s why we need to take action at the state level,” Whitmer said Tuesday. “It’s crucial for us to come together now to pass a targeted, state-based economic stimulus plan … that will provide direct financial support to families and small businesses that have been hit hardest by this pandemic.
“Michigan is facing a budget shortfall next year of up to $1 billion,” she added. “So we have to make some hard choices, but right now prioritizing our families, our front line (workers) and small businesses, while avoiding spending too much on non-critical projects.”
The letter was addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, House Speaker Lee Chatfield and House Minority Leader Christine Greig. Both the State House and Senate resumed sessions Tuesday.
Shirkey’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
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The letter came a few days after Shirkey and Chatfield met with President Trump at the White House. She thanked them for talking with the president about the urgency of additional economic relief.
“This is the most urgent public health emergency our state has faced in our lifetimes, and it demands our full, immediate, and unified attention,” Whitmer wrote. “I am hopeful that when the legislature reconvenes … we can work together in a bipartisan manner on the following priorities during the few remaining session days of 2020 to address the public health and economic crises our state is currently facing.”
Whitmer’s letter comes as Michigan’s cases and deaths continue to spike. On Monday, the state reported another 10,428 cases over the previous 48 hours, with 98 additional deaths.
That brings the totals as of Monday to 360,449 cases and 9,134 deaths.
The letter featured three requests:
- Passage of a $100 million COVID-19 relief plan.
- Passage of a permanent extension of unemployment benefits.
“If we don’t take this bipartisan action now, thousands of Michiganders who are unemployed will lose benefits right after the holiday,” Whitmer said. “Let’s work together and get this done.”
- Passage of a bill that would protect public health.
With little, if any, immediate help coming from Congress, she said the state can’t wait for support from the federal government.
Whitmer has been saying that Michigan’s unemployment benefits are in the bottom-third in the country, and has pointed out the legislation extending benefits temporarily to 26 weeks expires after Christmas.
Whitmer is again asking the legislature to pass bills requiring masks in public – Shirkey has publicly been cool to that idea — and focus on spending money to test, expand PPE and more. Currently, the state has a mask mandate under a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services epidemic order. “While there is real hope on the horizon with multiple vaccines becoming available in the coming weeks and months, we are entering what could be a very dark and deadly winter, she wrote.